CDS member Cheryl Watson-Lowry joined Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle today to announce a $1 million earmark in the 2012 Cook County Health and Hospital System budget for outpatient dental care.
“These public health initiatives will be critical to treating our underserved residents at a time when families throughout Cook County are facing difficult economic circumstances,” President Preckwinkle said. “Because we made tough choices in our budget, we can invest in public health to ensure … our children can have access to the dental services they need and deserve.”
President Preckwinkle also announced today an additional $1 million allocation for the Access to Care organization, which facilitates primary care for residents of suburban Cook Country at reduced rates. Private physicians care for qualified patients in their private offices. This brings the County’s total funding for the Access to Care organization to $3 million this year.
Ramanathan Raju, MD, CEO of the Cook Country Hospital System, called it “a great day for the health of Cook County residents.”
“In times of financial crisis, it takes courageous leadership and farsighted thinking to protect the health of our residents. As more people enroll (in public health systems), we need to think of innovative ways of partnering with the community and organizations to provide care,” Dr. Raju said.
Funding to restore dental care to the Cook County healthcare system has been a year-long battle for the Chicago Dental Society’s Government Affairs Committee. Members have met repeatedly with President Preckwinkle and various commissioners to explain that the federal government has designated large areas of Cook County as dental health professional shortage areas, and to educate commissioners about the importance of oral healthcare as part of whole body wellness.
Dr. Watson-Lowry, who chairs the Government Affairs Committee, was reinvigorated by today’s announcement.
“I am so excited that we are making progress, and that the underserved residents of Chicago and Cook County will receive the dental care that they deserve,” she said. “This will change lives. People who have not been able to find jobs because they are afraid to smile or to talk in public will be able to have their mouths restored so that they can eat and speak properly and seek employment.”
Also on hand for the announcement were commissioners John Daley (D-11th), also the Finance Committee chairman; Tim Schneider (R-15th); Peter Silvestri (R-9th); and Jeffrey Tobolski (D-16th).
“The world would be a better place if we smile at each other a little more. You can thank a dentist for that,” Mr. Silvestri said.
“Sure enough,” President Preckwinkle replied. “I’m grateful for the bipartisan support for these additional funds for both Access to Care and the dental program.”Pictured above (L-R): CDS executive director Randy Grove, Commissioner Jeffrey Tobolski (D-16th), CDS Government Affairs Committee chair Cheryl Watson-Lowry and Commissioner John Daley (D-11th).